Coaching Cycle Active Listening Coaching Language Data-Driven Conversations Coaching Notes Reflective Practice

“Most of us learn best when supported by a friendly, more-expert person.”
–Nancy Anderson, Texas Woman’s University

Intro picture

How to Use the Literacy Coaching Module

This module supports literacy coaches in developing their craft. It focuses on coaching primary teachers in guided reading lessons, intervention groups, and Reading Recovery® lessons. The principles discussed are applicable across many additional aspects of literacy instruction. Coaches provide support in many ways, including workshops, planning sessions, and demonstration lessons, but at the heart of coaching is observing teachers teach and supporting their specific needs. The Literacy Coaching Module addresses this aspect of coaching. The greatest potential for change exists in the context of coach and teacher having the shared experience of the observed lesson to serve as a concrete basis for collaborative analysis (Rodgers and Rodgers, 2007). Courses and workshops can provide an important introduction to instructional practices, “but for the skilled teacher, that is where the learning begins. Coaching provides the support teachers need to engage in classroom inquiry” (Lyons & Pinnell, 2001). Coaches prompt teachers to analyze their teaching by:

  • Helping teachers observe and analyze student behavior;
  • Helping teachers become aware of the impact their decisions have on students;
  • Helping teachers deepen their understanding of the reading and writing process;
  • Helping teachers reflect on their own learning. (Lyons & Pinnell, 2001)

The emphasis in coaching is generative. It is not intended to “fix” a specific lesson, but to develop skills to impact future lessons (Fountas & Pinnell, 2009).

Based on a study of literacy coordinators during coaching sessions, Lyons and Pinnell (2001) found that the most effective literacy coaches:

  • Have a strong understanding of the reading and writing process;
  • Use this knowledge to call attention to critical parts of the lesson;
  • Select points that will lead to new learning;
  • Engage teachers in reflection as a way to improve their skill;
  • Create a trusting relationship within which critical feedback is valued.

Throughout this module, you will meet five literacy coaches from different parts of South Carolina. Below they each provide a few words about the importance of coaching and how they approach their work:

Teresa Carter

Why Coaching 1; Transcript
Teresa Carter, Reading Recovery
and Early Literacy Teacher
Leader, Coach for District
Coaches, Greenwood 50

Derek Johnson

Why Coaching 2; Transcript
Derek Johnson,
District Literacy Coach,
Rock Hill Schools

Kim Floyd

Why Coaching 3; Transcript
Kim Floyd, Reading Recovery
and Early Literacy Teacher
Leader, Darlington County SD

Jamie White

Why Coaching 4; Transcript
Jamie White, Reading Recovery
and Early Literacy Teacher
Leader, Fort Mill SD

Barabara Fewell

Why Coaching 5; Transcript
Barbara Fewell, Reading
Recovery and Early Literacy
Teacher Leader, Rock Hill


This module is divided into six sections. Video clips of coaching sessions are accompanied by relevant lesson excerpts. Guiding questions are provided in each section. After viewing the clips, you may want to read the “Points to Consider” linked to each question. At the end of each Section, the “Section Reflection” invites you to specifically apply the Section to your own coaching experiences.

  • The Coaching Cycle presents each phase of a typical coaching session: preparation, pre-lesson conversation, lesson observation, debriefing, and coach reflection/follow-up. We have also included building trust as a prerequisite first step in coaching. Through interviews with the coaches and excerpts from coaching sessions, this section provides guidance in planning effective coaching experiences.
  • Listening addresses “the critical nature and importance of this competency…the most important competency of coaching upon which all other skills are built.” (Kee et al.,2010). Through video clips and transcripts, we examine specific coaching moves to identify qualities of committed, engaged, active listening.
  • Coaching Language further considers the communications skills necessary for successful coaching. We present coaching excerpts for analysis of language using principles suggested by Fountas and Pinnell (2009).
  • Data-Driven Conversations provides examples of various ways data drives effective coaching conversations both before and after lessons. It emphasizes the importance of closely observing the reading and writing behaviors of the children, systematically recording this evidence, and the power of collaboratively discussing it to map instructional decisions. The “Additional Analysis of Running Records” that was featured in the Guided Reading with Struggling Readers module is included here as a useful tool for coaching conversations that analyze specific features of a running record.
  • Coaching Notes provides examples of different digital and hand-written methods coaches use to take and organize useful notes.
  • Supporting Reflective Practice shows how coaches bring together all the tools in the previous sections – organization, listening, language, and data – to support teachers in engaging in reflective practice. We present examples of coaching to support teachers in developing reflection, and the impact on instruction of collaborative reflection between coach and teacher.

We would like to acknowledge the contributions to this module of the following:

  • Andrea Allen, Reading Recovery Teacher, Finley Road Elementary School, Rock Hill Schools
  • Amanda Bolt, Classroom Teacher, Northside Elementary School, Rock Hill Schools
  • Heather Calliham, Classroom Teacher, Rice Elementary School, Greenwood 50
  • Teresa Carter, Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Teacher Leader, Greenwood 50
  • Emmy Evans, Literacy Coach, Rice Elementary, Greenwood 50
  • Barbara Fewell, Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Teacher Leader, Rock Hill Schools
  • Kim Floyd, Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Teacher Leader, Darlington County School District
  • Derek Johnson, District Literacy Coach, Rock Hill Schools
  • Susan Kidd, Reading Recovery Teacher, Pleasant Knolls Elementary School, Fort Mill School District
  • Patti McKinley, Classroom Teacher, Thornwell School for the Arts, Darlington County School District
  • Kathryn Murr, Reading Recovery Teacher, Gold Hill Elementary School, Fort Mill School District
  • Tina Nabors, Reading Recovery Teacher, Lakeview Elementary School, Greenwood 50
  • Ellen Oldland, Classroom Teacher, Thornwell School for the Arts, Darlington County School District
  • Jamie White, Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Teacher Leader, Fort Mill School District

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Anderson, N. (2011, Fall). Coaching in Reading Recovery: Professional Conversations, The Journal of Reading Recovery, 43-51.

Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G.S. (2009, Spring). Keys to Effective Coaching: Cultivating Self-Extending Teachers in a Professional Learning Community. The Journal of Reading Recovery, 39-47.

Kee, K., Anderson, K., Dearing, V., Harris, E, & Shuster, F. (2010). Results Coaching: The New Essential for School Leaders. Thousand Oaks, California:  Corwin

Lyons, C.A. & Pinnell, G.S. (2001). Systems for Change in Literacy Education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

Rodgers, A. & Rodgers, E.M. (2007). The Effective Literacy Coach: Using Inquiry to Support Teaching & Learning. New York: Teachers College Press